By Allan Muir
Will Columbus vs. Detroit be an Eastern Conference matchup next season? [Jay LaPrete/AP]
During Hockey Night In Canada’s Hot Stove segment last night, Elliotte Friedman revealed what he says is the NHL’s most recent plan for realigning the league into a four-conference set up.
At first glance, it makes a lot of sense…especially for a pair of Eastern time zone teams currently trapped in the Western Conference, and a Southeastern club that needs to be shifted west.
Friedman reported the Detroit Red Wings would move to an eight-team conference with Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.
The second new Eastern grouping would see the Columbus Blue Jackets move east to join the Rangers, Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey and Carolina.
There also would be two seven-team conferences. One, primarily Central time grouping would see Winnipeg joining Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and Nashville, while Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim would populate the other.
This wins on so many levels, particularly the move of Detroit to conference one. It reunites four of the Original Six teams. It reignites the old Toronto/Detroit rivalry. And while it would mean extra travel for Florida and Tampa Bay, the plan would bring marquee opponents to these attendance trouble spots on a regular basis.
Most important, it removes the league’s most onerous travel/TV schedule from one of its cornerstone franchises.